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Do you smell well?

One important symptom of COVID-19 – the loss of your sense of smell – has highlighted how vital this sense is to our daily lives.

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There are a lot of reasons someone can lose their sense of smell, or ‘Anosmia’ as it is known. Here we look at some of these reasons and what you can do about it.

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Some useful definitions

Anosmia  Loss of smell

Hyposmia Reduced sense of smell

Parosmia  Change in how things smell

Phantosmia – Smelling things that are not there

Some possible causes

Allergy (such as hay fever)

Getting older 

Head injury

Nasal polyps (a growth in your nose)

Sinus infection (sinusitis)

Viral infection (cold, flu, coronavirus)

Lost your sense of smell? Here's what can you do about it...

If your sense of smell does not return to normal within a few weeks, contact your GP who can check for obvious causes and refer you to a specialist if necessary.

You may wish to give smell-training a go. This is a process where frequent and repeated exposure to strong odours helps to restore your sense of smell.  It is backed by science. On the right you can find links to organisations who support those with smell loss. They can provide professional kits to guide you through the process of smell training. 

There are two main charities in the UK, AbScent and Fifth Sense, which support people with smelling disorders. Both do a fabulous job with a slightly different emphasis. At their core, they both offer advice on smell training and support people who have lost their sense of smell and taste.


Smell Training

Sense of Smell Project

Nose Well

An information guide to help you understand more about your COVID-19-related smell loss

Which of your senses can give your memory a boost?

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It has been long thought that the smell of the herb rosemary can aid memory. Now, science seems to back this up. Research has shown that people exposed to the scent of rosemary demonstrate higher levels of memory retention.

If you're studying for an exam, learning a new skill or just reading for fun, remember your sense of smell is there to help you out.

A new bookmark fragranced with the scent of rosemary has been created to support students with their memory and cognition during revision in the lead up to their GCSE and A-level exams. With the past two years of teacher-assessed grades, most students have not faced public exams for some time so as part of a pilot project, bookmarks are being sent to a number of schools to support pupils as they move into the revision stage ahead of their exams.

Rather like a memory aid in the shape of a bookmark, it has been created by IFRA UK as part of an initiative called Changing Lives Through Fragrance which brings together people from across the industry to highlight and promote the importance of our sense of smell.


The bookmarks are not exclusively for those studying and may benefit anyone who wishes to improve their memory as the scent of rosemary has been chosen due to its long association with memory. This was something Shakespeare famously highlighted with his quote… Ophelia: “There’s Rosemary, that’s for remembrance....” [Hamlet, Act 4, Scene 5].


Research has since provided a body of evidence to support this belief. Working memory assessments such as immediate serial recall, sentence span, and counting span tasks were significantly (5-7%) better in a children exposed to Rosemary aroma compared to controls and possessed medium to large effect sizes[1],[2].


Other studies have shown that rosemary aroma produced a significant enhancement of performance for overall quality of memory and secondary memory factors in healthy volunteers[3] and that this is likely to be as a result of absorption of pharmacologically active compounds during inhalation[1], in particular 1,8-cineole[2].


Lisa Hipgrave, Director of IFRA UK said: ‘The creation of this bookmark was something we felt strongly about as young people have had such a disrupted time over the last two years so finding ways we can support them was important to us.


‘But the bookmark is also going to be available to a wider audience and we are currently exploring different groups to get it out to a wider number of people. Our sense of smell is so central to our lives and that is why we have brought together people across the industry to explore projects that can help people have a greater understanding of olfaction.’


Bookmarks are limited in number but are available through the Changing Lives Through Fragrance Group website As well as ordering bookmarks, the website also contains an interesting and eclectic range of information about our sense of smell -  from helping people learn some new and quirky facts about our sense of smell, to taking a deeper dive into the world of olfaction through highlighting wider research, activities and events.

[1]Any Sense in Classroom Scents? Aroma of Rosemary Essential Oil Significantly Improves Cognition in Young School Children. Moss, M., Earl, V., Moss, L. & Heffernan, T., Advances in Chemical Engineering and Science. 2017: 07, 04, p. 450-463

[2] Exam revision students 'should smell rosemary for memory'

[3] Aromas of rosemary and lavender essential oils differentially affect cognition and mood in healthy adults

Moss M; Cook J; Wesnes K; Duckett P. February 2003, The International Journal of Neuroscience 113(1):15-38

[4]Halfway to Scarborough Fair? The Cognitive and Mood Effects of Rosemary and Sage Aromas.

Moss, M. International Journal of Clinical Aromatherapy, Vol. 9, No. 1&2, 2014, p. 1-7.

[5] Plasma 1,8-cineole correlates with cognitive performance following exposure to rosemary essential oil aroma

Moss, M. & Oliver, L., Jun 2012. Therapeutic Advances in Psychopharmacology. 2, 3, p. 103-113

Order bookmarks by emailing

Let us have the number you require, the address to send them to (UK only - sorry!) and how you plan to use them!

How memories forgotten through dementia can be reignited with scent

Our sense of smell is one of our most visceral instincts. It has an instant and powerful connection to memories, especially emotional memories. Researchers such as Rachel Herz have reported that odours evoke more emotionally potent memories than some other sensory cues (auditory, verbal or visual)[1]. There is some great data which evidences the unique interconnections between the olfactory area and the amygdala- hippocampus complex of our brain’s limbic system. It is this area of our brain which supports functions including emotion, behaviour, long term memory and olfaction, which underpins why the response is so powerful.


When you smell something, such as the smell of the sea, freshly cut grass, your mum’s cooking or your dad’s aftershave, you can probably pull out a range of memories and with them a range of feelings and images of these past associations. These smells connect us with the world around us and also with our past. The importance of our sense of smell has been vividly illustrated for so many people who suffered with smell loss during infection with the Covid virus, some suffering with a feeling of being isolated as a result.


It is estimated that there are approximately 44 million people worldwide living with Alzheimer's disease or a related form of dementia. As Alzheimer’s worsens people experience greater memory loss and other cognitive difficulties. It is a problem that causes distress for the sufferers and also their carers, friends and family. So, what if we can use smells to help reignite a connection to past memories and also to the world around them?


This is something we have turned our attention to at Givaudan. As the world’s leading fragrance house, we create scents that go into everything from shampoos and prestige fine fragrances to floor cleaners or air fresheners. Ten years ago our perfumers, in consultation with therapists and rehabilitation experts in Singapore, designed smells for a memory kit. The ‘smell a memory’ kit is based on a set of over 60 odours commonly experienced during everyday life in Singapore. The team worked with a small group of patients suffering form dementia. For each patient a personalised kit of ten smells was selected based on the individual’s family history, ethnicity, age and personal stories. From this individual kit of 10 smells the patient’s carer selected five that they thought were particularly relevant or special for the person with dementia.


The care givers spent 10 to 15 minutes a day with the person with dementia and the scents. The person with dementia was encouraged to share thoughts and comments whenever the scents were presented to them. Simple prompts were given asking the patient whether the smell was familiar, if they liked it and what it reminded them of, then encouraging them to talk more. The smelling sessions were easier with some patients than others. For some the scents brought very little response but for others, memories were brought to life and stories were told that would not otherwise have been heard. For one, the smell of flowers reminded her of visits to the temple, for another the smell of fish was a memory of cooking for friends and family, and for another memories of swimming and dancing on the beach even brought her to her feet to dance.


The sessions also brought benefits for the patients’ carers because they learnt more about the patients and their lives and memories, and conversations evolved that could not otherwise have been imagined.


[1] Herz, R. (2004) A naturalist analysis of autobiographical memories triggered by olfactory visual and auditory stimuli. Chemical Senses, 29, 317-324.

See more scented articles on our 'Science of Smell' page.



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